Power to the Payers II

Student involvement in setting University priorities has never been more appropriate.

In a prescient 2002 article in Change magazine, then University of Minnesota President Mark Yudof wrote that as tuition comprises larger proportions of University revenues relative to state funding, âÄúaccountability will shift more toward students and their needsâÄù and away from state priorities. If accountability failed to shift according to revenue proportions, Yudof predicted the University would atrophy, ceasing to be a center for innovation and significant research. As mentioned in last weekâÄôs editorial, the latest budget approved by the Board of Regents means that University revenues from tuition and fees will be higher than those from the state for the first time in history. Unfortunately for students, ever heftier financial contributions to the University have apparently not been interpreted by administrators as a call for student inclusion in University financial decisions. The âÄúcompetitivelyâÄù compensated budget crafters do a disservice to all by implying that University finances are a complicated dominion reserved to an elite fiscal technocracy, yet the few consultations student governors have typically been awarded throughout the budget process function as a dissemination of the budget to students, placing them in a passive, receptive position. Of course, the budget for a University of this magnitude is complex, but as GAPSA President Kristi Kremers notes, âÄúThere have to be more overtures from administration to make the process more transparent.âÄù Transparency is just the first step; it becomes apparent in times of budgetary crunch that we have not appropriately tapped our full financial creativity as an institution of learning and discovery. A veritable army of critically-minded CLA students, renowned business enrollees and countless others primed for finding new ways of allocating limited resources more prudently have been neglected. If tuition must become the UniversityâÄôs primary source of revenue, budget planners must increasingly involve and answer to students regarding University priorities.